My Third Life

By: Crazyeight

A girl brushed a strand of hair away from her ear before looking at the boy next to her. Pushing her back off the tree she was leaning against she leaned towards him, a small smile teasing the corners of her lips.

"So what do you think?"

The boy looked over at Nikki, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Um…what do I think about what, Nikki?"

Her smile evaporating quickly, Nikki rolled her eyes at the boy and sighed heavily in exasperation.

"About my hair, duh!" the girl exclaimed, pointing at herself. "I had it cut. I wanna know what you think of it."

The boy gave Nikki a sheepish smile and shrugged.

"I always like it no matter what it looks like. Why's it matter?"

"Phooey." The girl folded her arms beneath her breasts and scowled at him. "You can be impossible sometimes, you now that? Don't you know girls like to be complimented every now and then?"

The boy continued to smile at her sheepishly. Niki leaned back against the tree, ignoring the rough bark that pushed against her, trying to ignore him. After several seconds had passed she crossed her legs and glared at him.

"You are impossible," she repeated.

The boy merely winked at her.

The sound of something scraping on wood caught Nikki's attention and she turned towards the end of her homes backyard just in time to see a dark haired girl wearing a blue bandana on her head climbing over her fence. The girl grimaced and swung her legs over its top, dropping to the ground. Nikki smiled warmly at the girl as she dusted herself off.

"Hey Amanda. What's going on?"

Amanda shrugged and sauntered over to the pair.

"I was bored," she said simply. "Derik was being a pain and wouldn't talk to me. I'm going to have to talk to Mom about him; see if she can get him straightened around." Amanda nodded to the boy and sat down. "Hey Dave."

"Hey. Nice bandana."

Nikki looked back and forth between the pair, biting the inside of her cheek.

"There's not much going on here either," grumbled Nikki, shifting in her spot again. Amanda glanced over at Dave with a raised eyebrow.

"Something up?"

"She's mad that I didn't notice her hair cut," replied Dave. Amanda glanced over at the other girl, scrutinizing her carefully.

"Ahhh…I see it now."

"Why doesn't anyone notice it right away?" Nikki bristled, drawing her legs up to her chest and hugging them.

"Doll," replied Amanda casually, leaning back onto her hands. "Your hair is always short. You could grow it out and only your mom would notice."

"You're both impossible." Nikki buried her face into her knees. Amanda gave the girl an sympathetic look before turning to Dave.

"You know, you could stop beating around the bush and get her to first base. I'll bet that'd make her feel better."

Nikki's horrified face flew away from her knees.

"Amanda!!!"

The dark haired girl snickered and waved a hand at her.

"Okay. So that didn't get the reaction I hoped for. But come on." Ignoring David's blushing face, Amanda fixed Nikki with a firm expression. "You know you're falling behind everyone else."

"I-I'm just taking my time! To get ready! I don't want to rush things."

Amanda shrugged. "Nothing wrong with that…"

"Of course it's not to you," Nikki growled. "You don't care about this kind of stuff."

"Come to think of it," spoke up Dave, scratching the side of his face self-consciously, "you don't. So how come you keep bothering us about our relationship?"

"Because," Amanda pointed at Nikki, "that's all she ever talks about."

Dave raised an eyebrow, clearly expecting there to be more elaboration. Amanda however, was in no mood to do so, and instead got to her feet, dusting off her rear.

"Well, if anything, Nikki's right. There's not a whole lot going on here, and since I seem to be interrupting you two, I think I'll take off and go find something to do. Maybe Shelly needs a shoulder to cry on or something. I'll go take a look. See you guys later." She paused. "Good seeing you again, Dave."

"Thanks," smiled the boy as the girl left. Nikki gave a half-hearted wave and leaned her head back onto her knees, trying not to look at anyone as their solitude was restored.

"She's right you know," Dave said, scooting closer to the shorthaired girl. "We're falling behind."

"I know," hissed Nikki, trying to keep a low voice while her face flushed with red. "I don't need anyone to tell me that. I just…want it to be perfect."

"Um…" Dave tilted his head to one side. "Well, what do you want?"

Nikki turned her head further away from the boy, desperately not wanting him to see her face's state. She was positive that she looked like a ripe tomato now.

"Nikki?"

"Promise you won't laugh?" she mumbled.

"Huh?"

"Promise you won't laugh?"

"You know I won't."

"I…I want things to look romantic. I want wind."

Dave looked up at the sky thoughtfully. "Well, I think the weather called for strong breezes for tomorrow. Wednesday is supposed to storm…"

"This is why we don't do anything," scowled Nikki. "You never take things seriously. This is all some big game to you after all."

Dave's expression fell slightly as he looked at the girl. "Sorry. You know I don't mean any of it though."

"Big dummy." Nikki quickly turned towards him and grabbed his chin. Before the boy could even react, she swiftly dove in and planted her lips on his. She held it for several seconds, basking in the sudden, rather unexpected pleasure that rushed through her face and down her throat where it eventually took up root in her chest. Quite against her own expectations, she pushed against the boy impulsively. Her mind felt as though lightning bolts were firing all over the place.

A brainstorm, she found herself thinking in an almost lucid manner and with that, she pulled away, eyes wide with disbelief over what she felt and done. She raised one hand towards her chest, feeling the heart that pounded erratically beneath it. After a moment she began to chuckle to herself, leaving David staring at her with even more breathless confusion than before.

"Uh…uwah…hah? N-Nikki?"

"S-Sorry." The girl placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. "I just thought of something really du—I mean. I…that was…" Nikki took a deep breath and suddenly let out a giggle. Dave watched, perplexed while she kneeled forward, clasping her hands over her mouth to stifle the guffaws that were rapidly breaking the mood.

"Um…right," he said, taking a gander up at the sky again. "Hey pot? This is kettle. You're black."

"Are—Are you—uuu…" More giggles. "…m-making f-f-fun of m-me?"

Nikki lowered her hands and took a testing breath to see if she had herself under control. Satisfied that she was she looked up at Dave, a playful glimmer in her brown eyes.

Dave's hands traced up Nikki's thighs and came to rest just above her waist.

"Could be," he winked before his fingers began to attack her waist. Nikki burst out laughing at the sudden tickle strike and quickly kicked him away. Breathing heavily she winked back at him.

"All right, you jerk. That's enough out of you. You think that you can have your way with me, huh? Well, I'll just hafta show you that you…"

"Nikki!"

The cry of the girl's mother interrupted their conversation, causing the both of them to sit up attentively.

"What's up Mom?" Nikki called back, spying the older woman standing at the doorway of her home.

"Supper's on. Put your toys away and get in here before your father eats us out of house and home!"

"All right! I'll be right there!" Nikki returned her attention to Dave. "Sorry about that."

Dave chuckled and nodded. "Right. Guess we'll have to pick this up later."

Nikki winked and smirked. "It's a date."

With that, Dave's form dissolved into a series of colors before receding into a small, circular disk sitting on the grass. Reaching out, Nikki carefully took it into her hands and stared at it for a moment. At the center of the disk was a small screen. Upon it were the words: Game saved. 200 points gained.

Nikki blinked, surprised by this. The surprise didn't last long however as she quickly leapt to her feet and pumped one fist into the air, letting out a triumphant shout of joy.

"Yyyeeesss!!!" she exclaimed, and with that she dashed off towards the house. "Hey Mom! Guess what?"

#

The teacher's back was to the class, his head turned down and gazing at the book he held in one arm. He said no words, nor did he feel any were needed. The sound of chalk striking the blackboard filled the room, drowning out the scratching of pens on paper as students busily took down notes.

For the two girls Nikki and Amanda, both the sound provided the perfect cover for their whispered conversation.

"So you finally went ahead and leveled up yesterday?" asked Amanda, glancing at the teacher to make sure that he wasn't looking their way.

"Yup," smiled Nikki gleefully. "Dave was so cute, blushing the way he did. And…and…he…tingled."

"He would. He's a soft light projection."

"Hard light," corrected Nikki, giggling. "I had him upgraded."

"Wait, what?" Amanda looked at the girl in shock. She glanced at the teacher to make sure that he hadn't heard her before continuing. "Your mom let you upgrade to the hard light package?! That's almost like having a real boyfriend!"

Nikki glowered at her desk. "Well, there're parental controls on it, but yeah, she let me upgrade." Nikki bit her lower lip. "I owe my mom a bit of cash on it though."

"Still," said Amanda, giving her friend an impressed look. "Your rank'll go up by a lot. Most of us have to make do with the soft light stuff." She sighed despondently, tapping her pen on her notebook. "I'd like to know what it feels like. Wonder if I should give the real thing a try."

Nikki looked at her friend sympathetically.

"I could…um…help you with that?" she said tentatively. Amanda gave her a look that bluntly asked if she were crazy.

"Didn't you read your owner's manual? You don't let your AI boyfriend mix with others like that. I…"

"Excuse me." The teacher's chalk struck the board hard and he turned to face the class. His spectacles flashed in the harsh light of the room, giving the girls an impression that he was a searchlight roving the grounds of a prison, looking for escaping convicts. "Is there something someone would like to contribute to the class?"

The teacher waited for a moment, surveying the room carefully. Nikki shivered as his gaze swept over her before moving on.

"Anyone? Don't be afraid to speak up."

No one spoke. No one dared to even breathe.

"Nothing?" he asked, almost sounding disappointed. "Let me remind you one again that talking during class is not allowed unless you are called upon or have something to share with everyone. Is that understood?"

"Yes Mr. Kelly," the class intoned as one. Mr. Kelly nodded.

"Good. Please remember it in the future. Now, returning to the lesson…"

The harsh sound of the chalk striking the board returned, followed by the scribbling of pens on paper.

Amanda glanced at Nikki. Nikki looked back.

"Sorry," Nikki whispered apologetically. "I just wanted to be helpful."

Amanda offered her friend a small smile.

"Thanks, but you ought to think about yourself here. Don't share your boyfriends with anyone. Period. Okay?"

Nikki pressed her lips together, anxiously watching Mr. Kelly. Never had she felt so relieved in her life.

"I know," she replied finally.

#

At the sound of the school bell ringing for the second time, signaling the start of the next period, Nikki slammed the bathroom door shut behind her. She clutched her school bag close to her chest, taking a moment to compose herself. Her stomach growled vehemently, demanding food. She scowled down at it.

"I know it's lunch time," she hissed to her abdomen. "Just hold on for a second."

Her stomach made one final, more subdued growl before quieting. She waited for a few seconds, counting to five while she listened to her heart beating rapidly in her chest. Once she was done, she lowered her bag, unzipped it and removed a small, disk-shaped object.

Dave, she smiled, her hand caressing the disk lovingly, yet nervously. Her arms shook a little—the jitterbugs as her mother called the feeling. Her breathing quickened slightly as she listened carefully to the noises around her. The sound of her fellow students heading to class was almost gone. Only a few stragglers here and there, but they would be gone soon. Licking her lips nervously, her fingers hesitated above the button on the disk's side before pushing it hard.

Disjointed, rainbow-like colors materialized around her hand, forming a rough, human shape before beginning to solidify and become more refined. Nikki winced reflexively as she felt her hand getting pushed out of the shape from the hardening light.

"Please provide user ID and access code," boomed a voice from the shape. Nikki's heart practically jumped into her throat at the noise.

Oh shit! I forgot to fix the volume!

"Please provide user ID and access code," the shape repeated.

"All right, all right!" hissed Nikki. "Wildkitty089. Password is k1tt3040n. Acknowledge!"

"User ID and password accepted," boomed the voice. "Beginning warm up procedures."

With that, the shape began to alter again, becoming increasingly human-like until the familiar features of Dave appeared. His color shifted from purple to green before becoming normal and human-like. After a moment, life appeared in Dave's eyes and he looked down kindly at Nikki.

"Hey," he greeted happily.

"Shhh," she whispered, pulling him into a tight hug. Dave blinked in surprise before awkwardly placing his arms on her back.

"Everything all right?" he asked. She tightened her grip on him in response.

"Didn't you listen? I said shhh! As in, stay quiet!"

Raising an eyebrow, Dave patted the girl on the back, still confused as to what was going on.

Until, that is, his eyes fell upon the toilet lying directly behind Nikki.

"Whoa!" he exclaimed loudly, pushing Nikki away from him. "Hey! What's going on here? Where the heck…?"

"Quiet!" Nikki clamped one hand over his mouth, looking at him pleadingly. "Do you want someone to find out that I brought you to school?"

Dave made a protesting noise and Nikki removed her hand.

"What are you doing bringing me here of all places anyway?" he asked in a harsh whisper. "You know the rules…"

"But I wanted to see you," Nikki replied with a pouting tone. She bounced on her feet slightly. "And as long as you're quiet, no one's going to find out."

"Did you forget that all of my actions are logged? I…" Dave's voice halted in his mouth as a slew of female voices suddenly entered the bathroom.

"Turn yourself off," she whispered, but Dave shook his head firmly.

"I'll be noticed if I do that," he whispered back, his expression becoming fervent. "Oh, man, we're screwed…"

Once more Nikki clamped her hand around his mouth and shook her head vehemently, urging him to keep quiet.

Maybe they won't notice and they'll just go away…

"Did you see the post yesterday?" asked a girl's voice as a group of feet tramped past the stall Nikki and Dave were hiding in. Nikki's eyes widened slightly as she recognized the voices.

Don't tell me… Nikki narrowed her eyes, listening all the more closely as the girls behind the stall's door continued to chat.

"Yeah," replied another voice. "Jane went up a level. So did a few others."

"I don't care about that," huffed the first girl's voice. "I meant that big amusement park that the Swinging Game Company is building. It's supposed to be set to open up by summer."

"I'd say it's about time," laughed a third girl's voice. "They've been taking forever with that place. I sooo want to go so bad. I wonder if Frank'll be willing to take me when it opens. He's been so busy with his friends lately I haven't had any time to spend with him…"

A giggle sounded in the bathroom from one of the other girls. "That's why I keep telling you to buy yourself an AB. They're much more reliable than the real thing, and you get to build your boyfriend from the ground up. Much nicer that way and they pay attention when you're talking to them. Plus, they're not so pushy."

"Oh, would you leave me alone about that? Jeez…"

"C'mon Kelsey. To each their own."

Nikki's eyes widened at the name. Kelsey! She knew she recognized the voices. She was one of a group of popular girls. If that was the case, then that meant that the other girls were…

"Hey, it's not my fault that Rachel does nothing but complain about Frank. I swear, everyday it's always 'Frank doesn't pay attention to me', or 'Frank doesn't spend any time with me.' Sometimes Rachel, you make me want to slap some sense into you. Just get yourself an AB if you want that stuff. I can even have my brother show you how to…get around some of the parental controls if you want a little more fun."

Nikki's eyes popped wide at that. She…she didn't just say what I think she just said…did she?

"Ugh," groaned Rachel's voice. "You're sick. I don't want to hear another story about your freaking boy toy, got it? This is the reason why I don't bother with that kind of stuff."

"You're too much of a good girl," laughed Kelsey. "You really ought to just let yourself go sometimes. I'll bet that's why Frank doesn't want to spend time with you."

"You…!" exclaimed Rachel loudly before the sound of footsteps rushing quickly echoed throughout the bathroom. All conversation cut off immediately as, for a few brief seconds there were the sounds of a struggle.

"Get out of the way, Kelly," came Rachel's frustrated growl.

"Would you just calm down, Rachel? Kelsey! Say something!"

"Like what?"

"Like an apology!"

There followed a long, unsympathetic sigh. "Fine. I'm sorry, okay? Jeez…"

"There. See, Rachel? She apologized. Just let it go."

"Yeah," replied Kelsey's voice. "I'm sure Frank's a good guy. Just not as good as mine."

Rachel didn't reply, and a moment later the sound of shoes could be heard storming out of the bathroom. Nikki waited for a moment while Dave shifted against her. A moment later, Kelly spoke again.

"That wasn't very nice, you know."

"She'll get over it. She always does."

"You don't have to be so in her face though. She tries to get along with you."

"Eh. Whatever. I need to take a dump, so…" Kelsey's voice dropped off as the sound of footsteps drew closer to Nikki's stall. Nikki felt Dave stiffen against her, and she held her breath. The feel of the stall's door jerking as Kelsey tried to push open the door nearly made her jump out of her skin.

"Ah!" exclaimed Nikki loudly.

"Eh? Is someone in there?"

"Y-Yeah. I am. N-Nikki."

"Sorry. I'll just use the next one over."

Nikki clutched onto Dave tightly while Kelsey moved over to the next stall and entered it.

Oh, God, she thought to herself in realization. What…what do I do? If I stay in here for too long they're going to notice that something's up. If they find that I brought Dave in here, they're going to tell the principal and they'll take him away from me. It's against school rules to bring Interactive Games onto school grounds. I might not see him again. Mom will definitely be mad too. I…I…

The pressure of Dave's hands on her back, massaging her through her shirt, brought some measure of reassurance. Not much, but it was enough for her to start thinking of how she could get them out of this and not be noticed. The question was…how?

Can I leave Dave here on his own for even a little bit? she wondered, but she quickly pushed the thought out of her mind. If she left Dave for even a moment, she risked him being found and stolen. She tightened her grip on his shirt, breathing shallowly. Her heart beat a fearful rhythm in her chest. She couldn't leave. Not so long as Dave was active. All she could do was wait.

She heard the sound of toilet paper rustling in the bathroom beside her. A moment went by. Then two. Then three. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Kelsey slammed the door open and walked out.

"All right. I'm heading back to the cafeteria. You coming?"

Kelly sighed. "Fine. I'm feeling hungry anyways."

The two left the bathroom together. Nikki waited until she was certain that they were gone before letting out a breath that she didn't know she had been holding. She leaned her head against Dave's chest for a second before falling heavily onto the toilet seat, dropping her head into her hands.

"That…was close," she breathed. Dave dropped down in front of her, resting his arms on his knees.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm…I'm fine," Nikki replied, her voice unsteady. "I just can't believe how stupid I am. I just…I just wanted to see you again so badly and…" she hitched her breath. "…w-what would I have done if we were caught? Oh my God…"

"Um…" Dave scratched the back of his head uncomfortably before reaching out and touching Nikki's cheek with the tips of her fingers. The girl looked up at him with a worried expression before she offered him a small, shaky smile.

"Sorry," she said weakly.

"Don't be. We weren't caught. Besides," Dave shrugged, "we can still go through my saved logs. We don't have to leave a record that I was here, you know."

"Doofus. That won't do anything as long as you're in online mode. I should have set you offline before I packed you." Nikki looked down and chewed on her lip. She knew why she hadn't set Dave in offline mode though. Compared to how he was while connected to his builder's network, the Swinging Game Company, he was…lacking in personality and ability to interact. He just wasn't the same. He was, as Amanda once put it some months back when she first bought him, rather stupid.

And he wouldn't remember it anyway. Offline Mode and Online Mode are like two separate people. Once you purchase the Online function, they can't share information with each other.

"I'll have to be more careful," she said aloud, more to herself than to the holographic boy in front of her. Dave looked at her, his expression sympathetic.

"I…think you'd better turn me off. Someone might walk in here again."

Nikki closed her eyes and nodded. "Right. But first, could you turn your volume control down? You were pretty loud when I started you up."

Dave offered her a small smile. "Sure."

A few seconds later, Nikki was holding Dave's holographic projection disk tightly to her chest. She felt a great sense of relief wash through her now that he was no longer active and at risk of being discovered, but at the same time she felt that sense of longing that had compelled her to bring him into school in the first place. Carefully, she pulled her bag over to her and placed Dave back into it.

"I'll see you when I get home," she whispered to him before zipping the bag closed.

My Third Life 9